Why does the Home Energy Score matter?

For more background on what the Home Energy Score is, visit our previous blog post What is the Home Energy Score and why is it in the CCAP?

Why Home Energy Scores?

The Oregon Department of Energy’s 2018 Biennial Energy Report took a deep dive into energy consumers in our state. Unfortunately, Oregon continues to see challenges faced by energy-burdened consumers. An Oregonian is considered “energy burdened” when their household’s energy-related expenditures exceed 6% of their income. In Deschutes County, 15-29% of residents earning 200% or below the Federal Poverty Level are energy burdened. Home energy scores can help consumers better understand a home’s energy efficiency, and identify simple home improvements that can mean big savings for their energy bills. (Taken from Oregon Department of Energy website).

Despite there being an obvious need for more awareness about energy use and energy efficient housing options, there has been a lot push-back on the proposal for a Home Energy Score policy for Bend. There are a lot of common misconceptions about the program–here are a few common concerns we’ve heard about HES. 

Homebuyers aren’t asking for HES. They don’t think this is important.

Just because buyers aren’t currently asking for this, doesn’t mean they don’t care—it means that they just don’t know about it yet. Considering energy use in the lifetime costs of homeownership has historically not been something that has been considered when buying a home. This is an important piece of the conversation of homeownership that has been missing that has left many in Bend searching for solutions to reduce $500/month winter energy bills. For those that do appropriately factor energy costs into their budget, think of the extra buying power that homebuyers could have when utility bills are reduced by hundreds of dollars each month.

Requiring an HES slows down the home-selling/buying process.

There is no evidence that energy disclosure disrupts the sale process. In Austin, where home energy audits have been required for ten years, realtors say the policy has not harmed the market in any discernible way. These types of policies usually require that a HES is required at the time of listing, not at the time of sale so it does not slow down the closing process. The actual audit to get a score takes about 1 hour. Timing to generate the report will vary depending on the assessor and could take a few days—this will be important ask when you are scheduling the assessment so you choose your assessor accordingly.

There aren’t enough assessors to do the work

It is true that there currently only a handful of businesses in Bend that could perform the audit to give a home an HES. However, it is something that home inspectors can easily get training in and expand what they offer for services. In Portland, new businesses have formed to meet the rising demand for services.  Earth Advantage has created a “Roadmap” to becoming an assessor that outlines the process for becoming approved to issue HES.

Energy audits are expensive

There are varying levels of information that can be collected during an energy audit or energy assessment. It is estimated to take about 1 hour to collect the 40 points of data that are needed to generate a score. It is estimated that the cost of an HES audit will be about $200, and we expect the price to go down after HES goes into effect. In Austin, where audits are required, the cost of an audit quickly fell to $125 as demand for audits rose. In the Portland market, audits are averaging about $150.

HES makes housing unaffordable

  • Knowledge is power, and home energy scores give home buyers more knowledge about the costs of operating the home they are buying. Energy costs can be a substantial monthly expense, especially for low-income households. You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing the miles per gallon. HES puts homebuyers in the drivers’ seat by revealing the full costs of home ownership.
  • Without HES, home energy performance remains hidden from both sellers and buyers – which doesn’t benefit anyone. Hiding home energy information certainly won’t make housing more affordable and isn’t smart policy. In fact, we think this “heads in the sand” approach is especially harmful to lower-income homebuyers, who stand to benefit the most from greater knowledge about the costs of home ownership.
  • The vast majority of home sellers will be able to afford the cost of a home energy audit. For those that cannot, the City will work identify ways to cover the upfront cost of the assessment.
  • HES’s benefits to all homebuyers, and to the community’s climate action goals, far outweigh any risks. For the small number of home sellers that may have difficulty complying with HES, exemptions and assistance programs can be developed to alleviate the hardship for those residents. On the whole, HES has substantial benefits to homebuyers and to the community as a whole.
  • Housing affordability is primarily a function of supply and demand. Bend faces a supply shortage. Home energy scores are information policy that do not affect the supply of housing.
  • In harder economic times, HES will have even more benefit to homebuyers. When times are tough, it is more important to understand the full cost of owning a home.

The Home Energy Score unfairly impacts poor people who may own sub-standard housing and their homes will be worth less on the open market

  • It’s not true that all lower-income homeowners will receive lower home energy scores. Home energy scores take many factors into account, including home size and total energy use. In fact, it’s bigger, luxury homes with high energy consumption (think hot tub and air conditioning!) that are likely to receive lower scores.
  • Getting a home energy score will help lower-income borrowers access special mortgage products, helping them finance energy efficiency improvements. The scoring tool we propose to use (US DOE’s Home Energy Score) gives low-income borrowers access to special home energy loans, that will help them improve their home’s energy performance.
    The Bend real-estate market is enjoying unprecedented appreciation. Low-income homeowners have benefited from this too.

These kinds of carbon policies don’t really lower emissions

  • The policy addresses residential energy use, the biggest source of sector-based emissions in Bend, according to the Community Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory.
  • This policy introduces information that is critical for buyers and renters alike to take action on their energy use. We don’t know what we don’t know and with currently energy consumption and costs masked, most residents have no idea that there is room for improvement in their home.
  • This is a long game. This is market transformation that uses a market solution, not a prescriptive regulatory one (we aren’t requiring that energy efficiency improvements be made—just that the information is supplied). It won’t happen overnight, but it will accelerate voluntary energy efficiency upgrades in the residential market over time.
  • Early indications from other communities that have scoring policies are that upgrades do follow disclosure. In Austin, as a result of energy disclosures, six percent of homes undertook energy upgrades. Commercial disclosure policies in NYC and SF are starting to show reductions in energy consumption.

If you think Bend needs a Home Energy Score policy, we encourage you to tell City Council that you think it should be included in the plan. Learn more about writing to City Council and giving public comment at a meeting here.

What is the Home Energy Score and why is it in the CCAP?

The Home Energy Score is a specific sub-action that is called out in Bend’s Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). It states:

Energy in Buildings Strategy 3: Implement benchmarking and disclosure programs for energy performance (page 24 in the CCAP)

Sub-action: Implement a Home Energy Score program that requires every home to be scored on its energy use and energy efficiency at the time of listing.

It is important to note that at this point, the Home Energy Score is just a strategy in the Climate Action Plan. In order for it to be put into place, a separate ordinance will have to be developed and adopted by City Council. We have the opportunity to shape the program into something that works for Bend. The development of the ordinance will be a collaborative process with the community. The general assumed structure is based on ordinances from other communities across the country.

What is the Home Energy Score? 

Developed by the Department of Energy and its national laboratories, the Home Energy Score™ provides homeowners, buyers, and renters directly comparable and credible information about a home’s energy use. Like a miles-per-gallon rating for a car, the HES is based on a standard assessment of energy-related assets to easily compare energy use across the housing market. The tool is uniquely refined to require minimal data input – to save on time, money, and training for Assessors – while producing maximum accuracy for energy use predictions.

Home Energy Score will help build market value for energy efficient homes that improve quality of life by:

  • Providing homeowners and homebuyers knowledge of home energy efficiency and cost-effective improvements in order to reduce energy use and costs.
  • Encouraging use of reliable, consistent home energy efficiency information in real estate transactions to inform decisions, and build market value for comfortable, energy efficient homes.
  • Integrating energy information into financing products to help drive the market for comfortable, energy efficient homes.

Features of the Home Energy Score

The Home Energy Score Report estimates home energy use, associated costs, and provides energy solutions to cost-effectively improve the home’s efficiency. Each HES is shown on a simple one-to-ten scale, where a ten represents the most efficient homes.

  • An energy efficiency score based on the home’s envelope (foundation, roof, walls, insulation, windows) and heating, cooling, and hot water systems
  • A total energy use estimate, as well as estimates by fuel type assuming standard operating conditions and occupant behavior
  • Recommendations for cost-effective improvements and associated annual cost savings estimates
  • A “Score with Improvements” reflecting the home’s expected score if cost-effective improvements are implemented

Why Home Energy Scores?

The Oregon Department of Energy’s 2018 Biennial Energy Report took a deep dive into energy consumers in our state. Unfortunately, Oregon continues to see challenges faced by energy-burdened consumers. An Oregonian is considered “energy burdened” when their household’s energy-related expenditures exceed 6% of their income. In Deschutes County, 15-29% or residents earning 200% or below the Federal Poverty Level are energy burdened. Home energy scores can help consumers better understand a home’s energy efficiency, and identify simple home improvements that can mean big savings for their energy bills. (Taken from Oregon Department of Energy website).

A HES policy addresses residential energy use, the biggest source of sector-based emissions in Bend, according to the Community Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory and it introduces information that is critical for buyers and renters alike to take action on their energy use

Is Bend the only community considering a mandatory HES program?

Oregon’s statewide home energy scoring program is voluntary, but more local cities are looking into developing mandatory programs. The City of Portland was the first Oregon community to adopt a mandatory energy score program. In the last year, Portland has issued more than 7,000 scores. Oregon Department of Energy has also met with other Oregon communities, including Milwaukie, Eugene, Corv​allis, Ashland, Hood River, and Hillsboro.

Other Background Resources


Speak up for Bend’s Climate Action Plan

The Bend community needs to make itself clear to City Council: Adopt the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) and we’ll be a partner in getting to work and making the plan a reality.  

The Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) is the result of a collaborative effort by the Climate Action Steering Committee (CASC) along with a broad array of community stakeholders. The CASC has completed the CCAP—a set of 20 recommended strategies and 42 related actions that consider environmental, social, and financial impacts in four key emission areas: Energy Supply, Energy in Buildings, Transportation, and Waste, and Materials. The CCAP is our plan to meet the goals laid out in the Climate Resolution that was adopted by City Council in 2016 that sets forth community-wide fossil fuel reduction goals of 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050.

With the strategies laid out in the plan, we can reduce our fossil fuel use 49% by 2030 alone. This is no small feat and is a crucial piece of our community’s climate legacy. The CCAP lays out a pathway to achieving our climate goals that will leave a lasting legacy for our community.

Right now, we need to show City Council that the community is still willing to and committed to being a long-term partner with the City in achieving our climate action goals. We need your help to tell City Council that climate action is still a priority for our community. 

Here are some helpful resources to get started

If you have any questions, please contact Lindsey Hardy at lindsey@envirocenter.org or 541-385-6908.

Important Dates

  • Wednesday, November 6th, 5:00PM (the agenda is posted here) @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council work session on the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). Public comment will occur during the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting directly following the work session. 
  • Wednesday, November 6th, 7:00PM @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council will hold a  public comment section during the business meeting to hear public input on the CCAP which will probably start around 7:15. 
  • Wednesday, November 20th, 7:00PM @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council Meeting. Show support for the CCAP during public comment.
  • Wednesday, December 4th, 7:00PM @ City Hall Council Chambers. City Council vote on the final Community Climate Action Plan. 

What to tell City Council

  • Immediate and meaningful local climate action is appropriate and necessary to ensure we protect our way of life.
  • The community is willing and committed to be a long-term partner in meaningful, local climate action. We all need to do our part!
  • Adopt the Community Climate Action Plan with the intent to implement all the proposed strategies, allocate resources to fulfill its commitments and goals, and use it as a guide for future decisions.
  • Include the Home Energy Score in the plan because it’s an effective way to share credible information about a home’s energy use, give homeowners the knowledge they need to reduce their energy use, and will help meet our community’s fossil fuel reduction goals.

Give public comment at City Council

To participate in the public comment section of the council meeting:

  • Meetings start at 7:00PM on the first and third Wednesday of the month. We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before. Fill out the public comment form upon arriving.
  • On November 6th, City Council will convene in a work session that will start at 5:00 (the agenda is posted here), there will public comment section for the CCAP during the regularly scheduled business meeting. The meeting will start at 7:00 and public comment will probably start between 7:15-7:30. If you coming to the meeting just for public comment, we still recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before to get your name on the public comment form.
  • On November 20th you will sign up on the general public comment section. You will be asked the purpose of your comments: Speaking in support of passing the CCAP.
  • You will be called to the podium in the order you signed up. You will be asked to give your name and whether you live inside the City of Bend.
  • You will have three minutes to speak. We recommend that you write out your comments beforehand. Keep your comments concise–it’s better not to fill allocated three minutes than to add verbiage just to fill the time. Multiple people can come to the podium with you to show additional support for your message. Whoever signed up for public comment is the only person who will be able to speak.
  • You can leave your comments with the City Recorder. If you plan to do this, be sure that your name, address, and contact information are on your comments.  

Submit written comments to City Councilors

View a sample letter of support here. It is most impactful to customize this template based on your priorities and experiences. Send your written comments to council@bendoregon.gov.

Add your name to the community petition

Show your support by signing the community petition. We want to get 1,000 signatures by the time City Council votes on the CCAP! Remember, the most important thing you can do is share your perspective by speaking at a City Council meeting or submitting a letter of support (scroll back up!).

Share on Social Media

Customize and share the following messages on your social media accounts to promote support for City Council adopting the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). These are just to help you get started so feel free to pick and choose pieces from these to create your own message. You can also use one of our “I support climate action because” images and add your own reason why you support climate action. You can view and download images here (if applicable, please observe photo credits in photo names). Or use your own image that connects to a reason why you support climate action—think outdoor adventures, cozy homes, etc!


Individual action is crucial… but is it enough?

A simple but powerful mission guides our work here at The Environmental Center: to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon.

As Peter Geiser, one of our founders, says, “It starts with personal change, then change in the place we live, then change in the world.”

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on how our approach to achieving our mission is rapidly evolving. For many years, we focused almost exclusively on helping individuals and businesses take action. Recycle and compost more. Use less energy.  Go solar. Bike to work.

Today, our focus is shifting towards changing systems. We recognize that individual action, at home, work and school remains essential. But individual efforts alone won’t create the change we need to ensure a healthy climate for future generations. We also need to address systemic barriers: the spoken and unspoken rules that shape our decisions and the future of our region.

Take local transportation as an example. Sure, all of us could walk and bike more. But those options don’t feel safe for many people in Bend, and our transit system still provides very limited service. The truth is that our transportation system works well for those who can afford to and are able to drive a car, but not so well for everyone else. Why? Because transportation planning and investments have focused primarily on moving cars rather than moving people.

Another example is the housing market. Inefficient homes with high utility bills waste energy and contribute to high living costs, especially for families on limited incomes. Our housing system still focuses almost exclusively on the cost to build or purchase a home or rent an apartment, rather than the full cost of living in that home or apartment. And decision-makers resist even baby steps in a new direction, such as requiring an energy score (a miles-per-gallon score for home energy use) so that renters and home buyers can know their full living costs.

As we move into our next thirty years of education and advocacy, we’ll still focus on individual action as the first step towards a better future. But we’ll also push for change at the system level. Both are needed to ensure a healthy future for people and the planet.

We hope you’ll join us in bridging the gap between personal change and change in the world. Together, we can take local action to make a world of difference.

Mike Riley, Executive Director

Charge Ahead Expansion

Fall 2019 Oregon EV Rebate Program Updates

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approved the expansion of the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, making it easier for people to purchase electric vehicles. Oregonians who bought or leased eligible electric vehicles between Jan. 1 and Aug. 2, 2018, will once again be allowed to apply for rebates through March 30, 2020. In addition, those purchasing or leasing a new or used plug-in hybrid electric vehicle on or after Sept. 29, 2019 will be eligible for the Charge Ahead Rebate, which offers $2,500 back to low- or moderate-income applicants.

What Does this Mean (early purchases expansion) ?

  • For those who bought qualifying vehicles in the first 6 months of the rebate program are now eligible to reapply. The reasoning behind this shift was that because the program was new and under litigation for those first 6 months, many dealerships didn’t educate their customers in enough time for folks to apply.

What Does this Mean (Charge Ahead Expansion) ?

  • The previous rules only allowed full electric vehicles (no plug in hybrids) to be eligible for the additional income qualified Charge Ahead program.
  • This will expand Charge Ahead to include Plug in hybrids!
  • The rebate will be $2,500 regardless of battery size
  • This will only be applicable for Plug In hybrids sold or leased after 9/29/2019.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Neil at Neil@theenergychallenge.org or call him at 541-385-6908 X12.



Open the Door to Savings with EPS

Open the door to energy savings with EPS

Experience the beauty of energy efficiency at this year’s Green Tour. You’ll find homes built for quality, comfort and efficiency, with an EPS™ to prove it. EPS, brought to you by Energy Trust of Oregon, is an energy performance scoring system that gives you an inside look at the energy impact of a newly built home and how much it costs to operate.

Continue reading

Intersections Ahead

Bend Needs a Transportation System That’s Good for People and the Planet

Our mission is to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon. It’s a large, complex job that intersects with many other economic and social challenges.

I believe sustainability is about relationships—our relationship with the environment that supports us and our relationship with the people with whom we share our planet. These relationships are inseparable. Together, they shape how and where we live, work, play and learn.

The future of Bend’s transportation system is a great example of how focusing on the intersection of environmental and social needs can shape a local community for the better. I currently serve as co-chair of Bend’s city-wide transportation advisory committee (affectionately known as CTAC). We are developing a draft plan to guide investments in Bend’s transportation system through 2040.

I’m advocating for increased investments in sidewalks, bike lanes, transit and safety. Those investments will get more people out of their cars and thereby reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions over the long-term. Equally important, those investments will also ensure that youth, seniors, families who cannot afford to own a car, and people of all abilities can get around town to meet their daily needs for food, shelter, education, employment, health care and recreation.

In other words, I’m advocating for investments that will build a just transportation system for Bend, one that meets the needs of people and the planet.

Do you support a just transportation plan for Bend? If so, I urge you to share your support, first with my fellow CTAC members and then with the Bend City Council, the final decision-makers about Bend’s transportation future. Over the next few weeks, CTAC and the Council will choose criteria to prioritize specific projects and programs as we develop a funding and phasing plan for transportation investments in bend. Your voice can make a difference.

Share your comments in-person at our next CTAC meeting on June 18th and at a special City Council meeting on June 20th. You can also send written comments to tsp@bendoregon.gov.

Join me in urging Bend’s leaders to do what’s right for our people and our planet. We can’t care for one without caring for the other.

Action Alert: Think Global, Act Local

A letter from our Executive Director, Mike Riley.

A simple but powerful idea guides our work here at The Environmental Center: Local action can make a world of difference. I’m reminded of its importance as we enter the new year and a new season of decision-making by our elected leaders.

Climate change is the environmental issue of our day. And while action to reduce climate pollution is needed at all levels, we have the most control over what happens at the state and local level. In 2019, our elected officials have some important opportunities to take meaningful steps forward to reduce Bend and Oregon’s climate pollution. I hope you’ll take time to remind them that you support bold action.

In Salem, the Oregon Legislature is poised to pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill. The bill would set a cap on climate pollution, require permits to emit such pollution, sell the permits through an auction, and reinvest the proceeds in activities that move Oregon to a low-carbon, clean energy future. These activities could include energy efficiency improvements and solar power for low-income families, electric vehicle infrastructure, soil and water conservation, and more.

Here in Bend, our City Council will be adopting a new transportation plan later this year that will guide walking, driving, biking and transit investments for the next 20 years. Our City Councilors will have the opportunity to invest not only in roads, but also in building a low-stress bike network across the whole community; completing our sidewalk systems in existing and new neighborhoods; and improving transit service. They’ll have the opportunity to invest in making our streets safer for all users: drivers, bikers, walkers and people with disabilities.

But none of this will happen unless our elected leaders hear from you. They need to know that you value state and local action that will lead to a cool, clean atmosphere and safe streets that get people out of their cars. Why? Because it’s good for people, it’s good for the economy and it’s good for the environment. It will ensure a better future for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

So as we enter the new year, think global and act local by making your voice heard. Communicate with our elected leaders. Tell them what you care about, and encourage them to take bold action.

Contact information for all Oregon State Senators by District.

Contact information for all Oregon State Representatives by District.

Not sure who represents you? Find out here.

Help to Write Bend’s Climate Legacy

There was recently a really interesting and visually compelling story featured in The Washington Post.

Imagine an arctic lake in the Western Brooks Range that hisses and bubbles as it releases hard-hitting methane gas into our atmosphere. Now consider this same lake bed ALSO contains craters that show signs of unleashing ancient fossil fuels from a reserve that had once been sealed. And if this weird hybrid of what’s happening at Esieh Lake is happening across the top of the world, this could be a big blow to our climate system.

Strange stories like this one are becoming more and more prevalent across the globe, driving home the fact that our climate is changing dramatically (and quickly) due to human activities. But you don’t have to travel to the Arctic to feel the destructive consequences of climate change. We just experienced the fifth-driest summer in Bend’s history, impacting local irrigation and farming, wildfire behavior, and more.

Right now, we have the chance to take local climate action that will make a difference here at home, while contributing to a global purpose. Our climate legacy is being written at this very moment, as the City of Bend works to implement the Climate Action Resolution that was adopted in 2016. We now need our community’s support to complete Bend’s climate action plan – the first such plan in Oregon east of the Cascades. Please show your commitment to this effort, which will produce tangible, practical strategies for Bend to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Your dollars will help Bend step up to the challenge of leaving a healthy climate for future generations.

Donate today and help us reach the $10,000 goal. Learn more and show your support here.

Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory Completed

Results to be presented on August 2nd

On September 7, 2016, the Bend City Council adopted a Climate Action Resolution that laid out a clear pathway for Bend to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Now, almost two years later, Bend’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory is complete and action planning is about to get started. Next week is a great opportunity to catch up on how far we’ve come, learn what’s next in the process, and continue to demonstrate our support for local climate action.

A brief refresher…

After the Resolution was adopted, the City of Bend needed help to fund implementation of the Resolution. Working together, the City, The Environmental Center, Oregon League of Conversation Voters, and other local activists set out to raise $175,000.

First, The City of Bend committed $50,000. Next, we called on Bend citizens and businesses to show their support – and you answered, helping us raise $25,000! With those funds in hand, we were then able to secure $100,000 in grants from Partners for Places and donor-advised funds of the Oregon Community Foundation.

Our successful fundraising effort set the stage for what’s happened this year. The City hired a Sustainability Coordinator in March and appointed a citizen-led Climate Action Steering Committee in April, to oversee the climate action planning effort and identify priority action strategies. Lindsey Hardy, Energy Challenge program director at The Environmental Center and Mike O’Neil of Solaire Homebuilders are co-chairs of the committee.

And that gets us to August 2018. Next week, the steering committee will formally receive and discuss the recently completed community greenhouse gas emissions inventory. The inventory identifies the primary sources of Bend’s emissions and forms the foundation for the action planning that will begin this fall.

The inventory will be presented to the Climate Action Steering Committee at its public meeting on Thursday, August 2nd, from 3:00-6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall. From 3:00 to 4:30, the consultants that prepared the inventory will present, and then the committee will discuss and ask questions. If time allows, community members may also be able to engage directly with the consultants; otherwise, community members can ask questions during the public input section of the meeting at approximately 5:30. Go here to see the full agenda for the committee’s meeting.

In the coming months, subcommittees will be formed to explore greenhouse gas reduction strategies. Stay tuned for details on subcommittee recruitment, how you can get involved, and meeting schedules. All subcommittee meetings will also be open to the public.

Working together, we’ve catalyzed adoption and implementation of Bend’s Climate Action Resolution.

Thank you for helping us get this far. Now, let’s keep the momentum rolling. Please continue to show up in support of local action to reduce climate pollution! We hope to see you at City Hall on August 2nd.